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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 9:10 pm | Fair 49º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Despicable Me’

The moral of the story hits its mark, but the animation limits its depth

2 Stars — Wholesome

The moral of Despicable Me is so obvious that it’s difficult to stay interested in the story, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a good moral tale or that there aren’t moments when the story works well.

If it had not been an animated tale, it may have provided more interest, tension and depth, but instead this cartoon lives up to its genre.

The lead character, Gru (Steve Carell), is an ambitious criminal who is the troubled son of a despicable mother (Julie Andrews). Trying to impress her with his lunar ambitions, Gru is summarily dismissed and has spent his life trying to get her praise. Choosing to do so by finding his identity in her villainous behavior, he relishes describing himself as the “despicable me.”

Predictably, this misunderstood adult child can only be reached by children: children who recognize him for who he is and help him find his “respectable me.” These children come in the form of three orphans who are being financially used and emotionally abused by the Children’s Home owner Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig).

The children — who are a typical representation of a responsible oldest daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), a rebellious second-born Edith (Dana Gaier) and an adorable youngest Agnes (Elsie Fisher) — provide just the right balance of love and acceptance to accomplish the task.

The villain’s nemesis is a younger criminal named Vector (Jason Segel). The son of a cold and cruel father, Vector is attempting to replace Gru as the most acclaimed criminal in the world. This rivalry adds some comedy and tension to the tale.

The power of love and acceptance that helps all of us find our true identity is accurately portrayed in this film. As an obvious moral tale, Despicable Me hits its mark, though it does so in a cartoonish way.


» It is obvious that Gru’s mother has destroyed his self-esteem. In what ways have your parents either harmed or reinforced your sense of self-esteem?

» Gru’s dream to go to the moon becomes twisted because of his mother’s lack of support. What dreams have you had distorted because of the lack of support by significant people in your life?

» The unconditional love and acceptance of the three children reaches Gru’s heart. Do you think there could have been any other way to change him?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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